Pistorius sentenced to 6 years
Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympian described by a judge as a "fallen hero", was sentenced yesterday to six years in a South African prison for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a ruling viewed by some as too lenient.
However, Judge Thokozile Masipa appeared to anticipate criticism of a jail term that fell far short of the normally mandated 15 years for murder under South African law, declaring: "Our courts are courts of law, not courts of public opinion."
Pistorius, who shot Steenkamp through the door of a toilet cubicle in his home in 2013, was asked to stand and face Masipa as she announced his sentence in a wood-panelled courtroom in the South African capital, Pretoria. He was calm after the ruling, embracing his aunt and tearful sister before being led down a courtroom staircase to a holding cell ahead of being taken to prison.
"He's a fallen hero, he has lost his career and he is ruined financially," said Masipa, who originally convicted Pistorius of manslaughter, a ruling that was overturned by an appeals court that instead convicted him of murder and sent the case back to her for sentencing.
In explaining the sentence, Masipa said there are "substantial and compelling circumstances" to show leniency towards Pistorius because he is a "good candidate for rehabilitation", is unlikely to commit another crime and had shown what appeared to be genuine remorse over Steenkamp's death.
Pistorius, 29, maintained he killed Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and reality TV star, by mistake, thinking she was an intruder hiding in the bathroom early on Valentine's Day 2013. Prosecutors alleged that he killed her intentionally after the couple argued.
Part of the difficulty for the judge in determining an appropriate sentence was that the Supreme Court convicted Pistorius of murder with "indirect intent". Pistorius was found guilty because he knew someone might die even an intruder when he shot. As Masipa noted, the Supreme Court did not find that Pistorius knew he was firing at Steenkamp.
Pistorius will be eligible to apply for parole after three years, according to legal experts. Prosecutors, who had asked that he be sentenced to 15 years in prison, can appeal for a heavier sentence but have yet to comment on whether they will do so.